Departing from the usual congratulatory ceremony for the reigning Super Bowl champions, Obama and members of the football team put together about 3,000 care packages for servicemen and women stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The president noted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's game-winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes and said it would not have been possible without the considerable time the offensive line provided for the play to develop.
It was the kind of "team effort" everyone can enjoy when they make a commitment to serve others, he said. In that light, Obama and the Steelers worked on tables spread across a sun drenched South Lawn, putting together packages that will be distributed by the USO.
The president called it a good way to kick off Memorial Day weekend, "to give back to those who've given so much for us."
In the audience were dozens of wounded servicemen and women being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the nearby National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
The president has made no secret of the fact that he is a Steelers fan. Team owner Dan Rooney had supported Obama during the campaign. The Steelers won the AFC Championship two days before the inauguration, and Rooney came to Washington for the festivities. On this day he returned with a Steelers' jersey with "Obama" written across the back.
Roethlisberger said afterward the players were "excited" to show their support for the troops. He said they had not been told what would happen, just that they would be "doing something different" and didn't have to wear suits. Coach Mike Tomlin, who was wearing a suit, said, "The plans changed repeatedly. I guess that's politics."